Mayor and A-State Chancellor respond to future of convention centers

Mayor and A-State Chancellor respond to future of convention centers
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission voted to fund the Keller Family Hotel and Convention center project.

Two convention center groups presented project ideas to the commission Wednesday.

The commission voted 3 to 2 to approve funding of $150,000 for the first year, $100,000 for the second year and $50,000 for the third year including a relief on taxes for those three years.

The same offer was motioned for the other project on Arkansas State's campus, but that motion failed 2 to 3.

One commission member recused himself from each of the votes.

The Northeast Hotel and Convention Center will be located along Browns Lane Access Road near the future I-555.

The Keller family plans to build a 159-bed Hyatt Place Hotel with a convention center.

The group also plans to add a second hotel to the area in the future.

Charles Keller said his family has been looking at building a convention center in Jonesboro for years and he is excited it is finally going to happen.

"We've been wanting to do that for several years here and it's been a great community. The mayor has worked hard with us in trying to help every way that he could," Keller said. "Jonesboro is just one of the few communities in the United States that you have academia and industry working together and I think that is great."

The Northeast Arkansas Hotel and Convention Center plans to break ground in late March or early April. The group expects the project to be finished in mid-2017.

A&P voted to fund this convention center over the Red Wolf Convention Center located on Arkansas State University's campus.

This project included a 202-room Embassy Suites, convention center and Houlihan's restaurant.

O'Reilly Hospitality Management is heading the project and leased the land from Arkansas State.

A representative with the O'Reilly group said they will now go back and consider different options after not getting money from A&P.

"Obviously we were looking for a favorable vote today and since that didn't happen we will have to go back and reevaluate our plan, I don't have an exact answer of what the end result will be, but we will have to evaluate the impact that that has and change the scope of the project," Region Director for O'Reilly Hospitality Darren Harrelson said.

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin released the following statement on the A&P Commission's decision:

"I'm pleased that Jonesboro will be getting a convention center. This city government and others have been working on a convention center for at least seven years, and it appears that it will soon be a reality. "I would like to congratulate Chuck Keller Sr. and his organization for putting together a successful proposal, and we look forward to working with him in the future to bring more people to Jonesboro for meetings, conventions and other activities. "I also would like to express my appreciation to the A&P Commission for thoroughly analyzing the two proposals that were put forward and for making the difficult decision. "Although ASU's proposal was not successful in getting A&P money, there should not be any doubt about the fact that Jonesboro strongly supports our university. If O'Reilly Hospitality Management goes forward with its hotel and convention center proposal, we will do whatever we can to help."

Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson released the following statement regarding the A&P Commission's decision:

"We are very disappointed by the Jonesboro A&P Commission's decision today. The public-private partnership between Arkansas State and O'Reilly Hospitality Management will bring an upper-upscale hotel and convention center to our community at an ideal location. The cooperative effort of the city's second-largest employer and home to 13,000 students and an experienced developer of hospitality venues throughout the U.S. is significant for Jonesboro and the region. It will allow A-State to establish a new academic program and enhance student recruitment. We are grateful to the city's medical centers and businesses who have expressed support for our partnership. We look forward to continuing our plans with O'Reilly and will always focus on what is best for our students, who clearly understand the value of this project for our campus."

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